The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants









Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Ring of Fire

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down, Down, Down
And The Flames Went Higher
--from the show's title song
--- from the title song of the show

Beth Malone &  Jarrod Emick
Beth Malone & Jarrod Emick
(Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)
On Broadway as in life, it sometimes seems like one step forward and two steps backward. Just when you think that the jukebox musical -- a compilation of pre-composed reusable songs -- is maturing (Jersey Boys is the most recent case in point), along comes another plot-less and pointless celebration of a renowned American musical artist. As an entertainer and as a composer of songs that spanned rock and roll, blues, rockabilly, country folk and gospel from 1955 to his death in 2003, Johnny Cash had an exciting and turbulent life that has inspired biographical consideration. The recently lauded film Walk the Line told the story of his early life. Ring of Fire is the brainchild of creator/director Richard Maltby, Jr., who is credited with starting the jukebox genre in 1978 with Ain't Misbehavin', in which the songs not the story of Fats Waller propelled the entertainment.

Good intentions are seen along the way, as 37 songs that Cash either composed or performed are framed to reveal the lives, times, and places he knew. We follow a trail of distinctly unrelated musical vignettes that ultimately lead us nowhere, except eventually to the street outside.

Slightly reminiscent of the recent flop musical Lennon, in which the title character was conceptualized through numerous performers, the different stages of Cash's life are inferred by three generations of men. They're possibly but not necessarily from the same family, but most likely from the same place -- the heartland of America.

The 20-something Jarrod Emick, the 40-something Jeb Brown and the 60-something Jason Edwards make no attempt to personify Cash but rather project the home-spun motivations, the struggles and the conflicts that helped to define his life -- most notably, his empowering inclination toward religiosity. Emick is every inch the charismatic cowboy as he struts and poses with youthful vigor. And Brown and Edwards resonate gingerly with the prerequisite nod to their characters' state of maturity.

No matter how familiar, song book collections have a way of backfiring if they appear isolated emotionally from the whole and are by their nature and design simplistic in their themes. None of the songs build dramatically on what we are seeing, nor are they intended to do so. Many of them do afford the performers a reasonably supportive showcase. Of course, women are part of these men's lives, mostly as spouses. Twenty-something Beth Malone and forty-something Lari White are strident for the sake of impact which leaves sixty-something Cass Morgan to reflect the charm of the golden years.

The eight-member on-stage band provides the most bracing moments in the show, as they not only provide terrific instrumental backup but also become part of the singing and dancing ensemble. Although the banjo, mandolin, keyboard, accordion, cornet, Dobro and evoharp are part of the instrumental mix, it is the guitar that dominates. In one of this revue's more rousing numbers, "I've Been Everywhere," the eight musicians and six principals line up across the stage, each strumming an acoustic guitar. The choreography, most of it variations on line-dancing, is credited to Lisa Shriver.

It can't be said that the song selections don't fit a variety of moods. Edwards is full of remorse singing "Hurt." "There You Go," finds Malone dismayed by Emick's fickle heart. "While I've Got It on My Mind" inspires hanky panky from Brown and White. The flood waters prompt "Five Feet High and Rising" by the principals. Après le deluge, a good crop appears and a reason to sing "Look at Them Beans." A medley at the Grand Ole Opry provides some amusement when Morgan, dressed in a silly frock, bellows "Flushed" (from the bathroom of your heart).

We get the message that prison and life on a chain gang is hell but not without its comical ironies with "Delia's Gone," "Austin Prison," "Orleans Parish Prison," and "Folsom Prison Blues." The faith-based songs like "Angel Band," "Waiting on the Far Side Banks of Jordan" and "Why Me" will undoubtedly please those so inclined.

Show-stoppers and standout numbers may be in short-supply, but not the number of times that you may wonder what is the point of all this wandering about in Cash-land.

The show is indebted to Michael Clark's various projections, often quite beautiful, the scenic design by Neil Patel and well lighted by Ken Billington. These transport us to farms and farmhouses, pastoral vistas, bars, on-the-highways and by-ways, Folsom Prison, and the Grand Ole Opry. In the end, we are indebted to Brown who sings "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," all about getting up feeling bad with a hangover. Unlike anything else in the show, it's perfectly understandable.

Created and directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Concept by William Meade
Chroeographer, Lisa Shriver.
Cast: Jeb Brown, Jason Edwards, Jarrod Emick, Beth Malone, Cass Morgan, Lari White,
Set Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald & Carl Casella
Projection Design: Michael Clark Musicians: David M. Lutken -- Banjo, Dobro, Evoharp, Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin; Randy Redd-- Keyboards, Mandolin; Jeff Lisenby -- Conductor, Accordion, Keyboards; Eric Anthony -- Electric Guitar, Mandolin; Laurie Canaan-- Fiddle, Mandolin; Dan Immel --Bass; Ron Krasinski --Drums; Brent Moyer -- Guitar, Cornet
Running time: : 2 hours and 25 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.
Barrymore, 243 West 47th Street (Broadway/8th Ave)212/239-6200
From 2/08/06; opening 3/12/06. Tuesday - Saturday @ 8pm, Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday @ 2pm.
Tickets: $101.25 to $86.25
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on March 10th press performance
Closing 4/30/06 after 37 preview and 57 regular performances.
Musical Numbers
(All music and lyrics by John R. Cash except where otherwise indicated. Dates indicate year of Johnny Cash recording or release.)
Act One
  • Hurt (2002)/ Jason & Company -- By Michael Trent Reznor
  • Country Boy (1957) / Company
  • Thing Called Love (1972)/ Jarrod, Beth & Company-- By Jerry Hubbard
  • There You Go (1956)/ Beth & Company
  • While I've Got It on My Mind (1974)/ Jeb & Lari
  • My Old Faded Rose (1964)/ Jason, Cass & Ron, David, Randy, Dan-- By John R. Cash & June Carter Cash
  • Daddy Sang Bass (1969)/ Company-- By John R. Cash & Carl L. Perkins
  • Straight As in Love (1959) /Jarrod
  • Big River (1957)/ Jason, Jarrod, Jeb & Dan
  • I Still Miss Someone (1959)/ Beth -- By John R. Cash & Roy Cash, Jr.
  • Five Feet High and Rising (1959) Jason, Jarrod, Lari, Beth, Jeb, Cass
  • Flesh and Blood (1970)/ Lari & Jeb, Cass & Jason
  • Look at Them Beans (1975) / Jarrod & Beth, Cass, Lari -- By Joseph Arrington, Jr.
  • Get Rhythm (1956)/ Company
  • Flushed (1968) / Cass -- By Jack H. Clement
  • Dirty Old...Dog (1966) /Randy, Brent, David -- Bv Jack H. Clement
  • Angel Band (1979)/ Company
  • If I Were a Carpenter (1970) /Jarrod & Beth Bv James Timothy Hardin
  • Ring of Fire (1963) / Jarrod & Beth -- By June Carter & Merle Kilgore
  • Jackson (1967) /Jarrod & Beth, Jeb & Lari, Jason & Cass -- Bt Jem Leiber & Biliv Edd Wheeler
Act Two
  • Prologue: Big River reprise /Company
  • I've Been Everywhere (1996) /Company -- By Geoff Mack
  • Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down (1970)/ Jeb -- By Kris Kristofferson
  • Temptation (2003)/ Lari & Jeb -- By Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown
  • I Feel Better All Over (1960)/ Jeb & Lari -- By Ken Rogers & Ferlin Husky
  • A Boy Named Sue (1969) / Jeb, Jarrod, Jason -- By Shel Silverstein
  • Going to Memphis (1960)/ Men
  • Delia's Gone (1962)/ David Bv John R. Cash, Karl M. Silbersdorf & Richard Toops
  • Austin Prison (1966)/ Randy & Company
  • Orleans Parish Prison (1974)/ Cass, Lari, Beth & Company-- By Dick Feller
  • Folsom Prison Blues (1955)/ Jarrod
  • Man in Black (1971)/ Jeb
  • All Over Again (1958) /Lari
  • I Walk the Line (1956) /Jeb & Lari, Jason & Cass, Jarrod & Beth
  • The Man Comes Around (2002)/ Jason & Beth, Cass, Jarrod, Jeb, Lari
  • Waiting on the Far Side Banks of Jordan (1976) /Cass & Jason-- By Terry Smith
  • Why Me (1994)/ Jason & Company -- By Kris Kristofferson
  • Hey Porter (1955) /Company
Stage Plays
The Internet Theatre Bookshop "Virtually Every Play in the World" --even out of print plays

Playbill Broadway Year Book
The new annual to dress up every Broadway lover's coffee table

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from